DARPA seeks an implantable 'travel adapter' for soldiers' bodies

Military research agency DARPA has announced a new program that seeks a 'travel adapter' designed for the human body. The device, as with other DARPA projects, is intended for potential use with military personnel, helping them overcome common problems on the battlefield and beyond. In this case, the 'travel adapter' would help reduce jet lag and protect against illness caused by foreign food and water sources.

DARPA points out that soldiers and similar military personnel often must rely on the local food and water sources available in the country where they're stationed; this often results in contracting preventable diseases, the most common being diarrhea that is sometimes severe enough to require medical intervention.

As well, flights to new countries disrupt soldiers' sleeping patterns and cause jet lag, which reduces a person's performance and can, in more severe cases, lead to disorientation and even exhaustion. These are persistent issues for the military that DARPA hopes to address what an ingestible or implantable device that it describes as a 'travel adapter' for the human body.

The new program is called Advanced Acclimation and Protection Tool for Environment Readiness (ADAPTER), which would integrate the therapies directly into the soldier's body. With this ingestible device or implant, the soldier's body would resist bacteria that cause diarrhea and would enable the soldier to quickly switch to a new time zone to prevent jet lag.

In a statement about this ambitious plan, DARPA ADAPTER program manager Paul Sheehan, Ph.D., said:

The goal of the ADAPTER program is to produce the therapies within the body itself. ADAPTER will manage a warfighter's circadian rhythm, halving the time to reestablish normal sleep after a disruption such as jet lag or shift lag. It will also provide safe food and water by eliminating in vivo the top five bacterial sources of traveler's diarrhea. Both will enhance the health and mobility of warfighters.